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Should you buy electronic appliances online?

CHOICE members share pros and cons of shopping with Australia's biggest online retailers.

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Last updated: 29 July 2019

Need to know

  • In a recent survey, you gave online retailers receive an overall satisfaction score of 80
  • Electronics and home appliances are among the top products you buy online
  • Product availability and deliveries and non user-friendly websites are among the top issues for online shoppers

The online shopping industry in Australia is worth a cool $24 billion and it's estimated that by 2020, every one in ten items will be bought online. 

When it comes to electrical appliances, both large and small, there's not many things you can't buy with a simple click of the button, 

But whether you're completing an entire purchase from the comfort of your couch or 'showrooming' (checking out products in a store and then buying it online for a lower price), how does the online shopping experience really stack up?

A recent survey of CHOICE members says, 'pretty well'. When asked to rate satisfaction of online retailers, respondents gave an average overall score of 80 (with the frontrunner retailer, Appliances Online, getting an overall score of 86). We also asked them to rate things such as value for money, range and ease of use.

So next time you're in the market for a new television, fridge or coffee machine, should you turn on the laptop or head into a bricks-and-mortar store? 

We look at some of the pros and cons, and hear what our members have to say.

Pros

1. There's more opportunity to get a better price 

With the ability to compare easily and access a wide range of products and retailers, it's no surprise that you can often find cheaper prices by shopping online. 

Our members recommend checking out the eBay outlets for large retailers such as the Good Guys and Bing Lee, and taking advantage of price-matching guarantees. "I got a great discount from the Good Guys eBay outlet store," says one member. 

I initially bought the product in store. Then, I noticed that it was cheaper online on Appliances Online. Bing Lee price-matched and delivered it for free.

CHOICE member

2. 'Click and Collect' options and speedy delivery 

Most online retailers now offer 'Click and Collect' services where you can buy items online and choose a store to pick up from, saving you having to wait at home for a delivery. 

It's a convenient option many of our members take advantage of: "I use store pickup which I find handy as you can shop out of hours and pick up the next day," says one. "I like Big W for its value-for-money options and when you order online and pick up in store, you can get the products you want quickly," says another.

Delivery for items purchased online is often faster, too (but usually only for metropolitan areas). Some survey respondents say their items had been delivered as quickly as within a couple of hours: "I have bought two appliances online recently and both were delivered within two hours. One item had a fault within seven days and a replacement was delivered within one hour," says one member. 

It's not all roses though, with respondents rating Harvey Norman as the worst online shop for delivery because of issues such as huge delivery windows, long wait times and breakages.

3. Customer service on hand 

While one advantage of shopping online is not having to deal with pushy salespeople, sometimes you still need someone to help you with your purchase or with issues that crop up once you have your product home. 

Features such as live chat, phone support for price matching and premium 'concierge services' online (available for a fee) were flagged by our members as enhancing their online customer experience.

Appliances Online has very helpful telephone staff, good range and excellent customer service.

CHOICE member

Cons

1. It can lead to overspend or confusion about what you're buying 

Being able to buy something in a few minutes while you're sitting comfortably at home at any time of day definitely has its appeal, but it can also lead you to overspend or buy the wrong thing. 

You're more susceptible to impulse purchases and being upsold on unnecessary add-ons (such as extended warranties) because you accidentally left a box ticked or received a pop-up special offer. 

Do your research by checking out our product reviews for home appliances and electronics, and double check you're getting the product you want and need.  

2. Issues with stock and product availability 

A number of our members flagged they'd had issues when searching for items online that weren't in stock once they clicked to buy.

I ordered a new cooktop which turned out to be out of stock, so I had to wait a week for the item to be delivered. This isn't the first time I've encountered stock issues when buying online

CHOICE member

3. A different shopping experience

It's easy to feel that sometimes a little love can get lost in the online shopping experience. If you're someone who enjoys getting up close and personal with appliances before you buy, or having a good old chat or haggle with a real person, you'll likely be left wanting. 

But you may not get that experience in-store, either. Many survey respondents bemoaned the lack of available and helpful staff at bricks-and-mortar outlets: "Sometimes it is hard to get someone to help you, as the stores are often so busy," says one member.  

4. Technical difficulties

A website that's hard to use and navigate can be supremely annoying, and not all of them get the thumbs up from our members: "The Good Guys website is a bit sticky and finicky for my liking. This puts me off buying online."  The Appliances Online website is considered the easiest to use, with a score of 85 from our members.

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